BURGEO, N.L. — Greg Parsons sums up the state of the Burgeo Highway in one word — “awful.”
“From Wooden Tilt to Burgeo, there’s a lot of bad potholes, you are weaving around. The road is not fit,” he said.
Parsons is part of a six-person committee formed to advocate for repairs to what locals refer to as the Burgeo Highway or Burgeo Road, but is mapped as Route 480. The road connects the Trans-Canada Highway to Burgeo.
Committee members work as a group to monitor sections of the road and advocate for repairs and maintenance.
Parsons says there are hundreds of potholes along that route, with some that are two to four feet long and three to four inches deep. Tires are getting damaged and Parsons worries about driver’s safety and a decline in tourism.
“We’ve got one of the nicest beaches on the island and people are not going to take their $50,000-$60,000 trailers or mobile homes out on the state of that road,” said Parsons. “We get a lot of foggy weather and if you’re going to be out on that road in the fog, you don’t know where the holes are. People that aren’t familiar with the road are just going to tear up their machines and it’s going to look bad on Burgeo.
“You know word of mouth spreads faster than whatever so… it’s not going to be good for tourism if they don’t at least patch it up, show some effort.”
Fellow committee member Jerry Billard wrote a letter to Premier Dwight Ball, Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker and Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons.
“We have very dangerous pothole situations along stretches of the Burgeo Highway including areas that are not easily identified by drivers and we are seeing reports on social media where vehicles are hitting potholes so hard that windshields have been cracked, airbags have deployed, damages to front-ends, tires, etc. are occurring and people are getting stranded along the highway for hours,” Billard wrote.
“A huge safety issue is ongoing as vehicles with unknown damages are entering the TCH and can cause an accident at any time. Also, drivers who are trying to avoid potholes are swerving into oncoming traffic and/or have almost lost control when turning sharply to avoid the dangers.”
Another concern for the committee is the alder growth along the side of the road. Parsons worries that moose won’t be seen beside the highway until it’s too late because the alders are not cut down as far as they should be.
“They (employees of the Department of Transportation and Works) did some brush cutting in February or March,” Parsons said. “There is still four-five feet of alders. They only snipped the top part of it.
“Obviously the bottom was buried underneath the snow, so whatever was showing above the snow at the time, they just trimmed off the top of it. They still had pretty much the full brush there not even touched. Whoever did it should be made to go back and finish what they didn’t do in the winter months because it’s dangerous what they got left there.”
Parsons says the amount of transport truck traffic travelling Route 480 from an area fish plant and an aquaculture project adds extra stress to the road’s load.
Parsons estimates some 50 to 60 trucks travel that road every day in certain months.
“The road is getting to the point of unrepairable because those big trucks — I say big trucks because each one is carrying 40,000 to 50,000 pounds, some of them, and they just tear the patch right back out of the hole.
Parsons continued, “It (the new asphalt) don’t get a chance to grab or blend with the other stuff. The state that road is in, it can’t hold up to the amount of traffic that is being put on that road right now.”
Although he is aware that a company is currently working to finish repairs to the road commissioned last year, Parsons says he doesn’t see significant work in store for the road in the Department of Transportation and Work’s five-year online plan.
Aware of concerns
Parsons is well aware of the state of the Burgeo Highway.
“It’s something that I’m very acutely aware of,” the MHA said. “It’s the issue I hear about the most consistently.”
He agrees that the road had been in a state of disrepair for many years, but noted that a significant amount of work has been done in the last two.
“There’s been more work done on the Burgeo road than (in) the 15 years before,” Parsons said. “Through nobody’s faultm, besides the administration that was in power, there was simply nothing done.
“Over the last two years, there’s been well over 100 culverts fixed. There’s been a lot of work done both in regular maintenance, culvert work, trying to get the base of the road, the foundation, back to a sensible state because it had been neglected for some time.
Parsons added that as of last week there was “a private crew down there doing some paving work, this week the TW (Transportation and Works) crowd is supposed to be coming down and there’s supposed to be hot asphalt available.”
Parsons said there is still a significant amount of carry over work that wasn’t finished last year, and that is going to happen.
“The way the road work is set up is there’s a significant amount that is planned, but there’s always flex allowed for unplanned,” he explained. “There’s work being done, there’s work being carried over, there’s still work to come”
Parsons also points that some of the factors relating to road work are beyond the government’s control.
“Half our problem now is things that are out of our control,” noted the MHA. “Where you don’t have a huge number of contractors doing the work, they are carrying multiple contracts for multiple areas, trying to do they best they can, especially when we have a weather situation that makes it difficult.
“I empathize. I’ve got to drive on that road too. I feel bad for those who get caught in situations where they lose a tire or something and they’re stuck. One of the bigger concerns for me is lack of cell phone coverage and that’s something that I am working on as well.”
Parsons says the progress his government is making on the Burgeo Highway is worth noting.
“I know what it was like driving on that road five years ago and I know what it’s like driving on there now,” he said. “I’ve travelled on multiple roads in the province and there’s significant road concerns everywhere.”
The Gulf News reached out to the Department of Transportation and Works for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.